Thursday, July 31, 2008

so not child's play

Today we went to playgroup .. again. That sounds such a simple sentence, a straightforward proposition, even fun if you're into that kind of thing. For me, though, it's kind of like saying "today I went to have all my eyelashes pulled out one at a time''. Only today there were more tears.

I'm not sure why this is. I first went to this playgroup about two years ago, although I didn't really enjoy it then and didn't go back for some time. But this year we started out positive, I thought if I just kept going back every single week with Freya she would warm up. She would learn to love it. She would form friendships and feel comfortable and smile and laugh and do all the things children are supposed to do when they are in a group that does nothing except play. Playing. In a group. Sounds simple enough.

But Freya has not really done any of these things. Admittedly, she has smiled. A few times. And once she sang along with all the songs, and played with a couple of the other children. But mostly she clings to me, or sits grumpily on my lap glaring at everyone, or hiding her face, or crying. When she finally stands up it's only to demand that I pick her up so she can do ''ring a rosy'', which I can tell you is NO FUN when you are carrying a three-year-old and trying to ''all fall down'' and ''all jump up'' without seriously injuring yourself.

Last term we didn't go to playgroup at all. I was over it. Why should I put myself through it when the person I'm doing it for appears to be miserable the entire time we're there? I rationalised. We had fun. We played. Sometimes she watched telly, me being the irresponsible mother that I am. And guess what? I got the floor clean. It made me feel better. Freya appeared to have no ill effects. I didn't cry. She didn't cry. We just enjoyed each other's company.

Maybe this lulled me into a false sense of security. Freya is a happy, well-adjusted child, I told myself. She started enjoying other kids' company, so I thought maybe we could give playgroup another shot. It would be good for her, I reasoned, and everyone else appeared to agree with me (including the large, frightening entity known as SOCIETY, for whom nothing is ever good enough but which has generally decreed it is particularly not good for a three-and-a-half-year-old to have no social interaction with children of their own age). I think mostly society is made up of childcare centre operators and mothers who work full-time, but that's just my opinion. And it invariably falters when faced with the opinion of SOCIETY.

I would love to go to playgroup and be able to chat sociably with the other mothers, to drink herbal tea and compare notes on this crazy thing known as motherhood. I don't know about anyone else, but I need help with it. I think there is no other job in the world that so clearly requires an occupational health and safety overhaul. And the only people qualified to do that are those in the same position.

But it's a closed shop, this playgroup. You get the feeling all that bonding and knitting and tea-drinking and singing are reserved only for those who TRULY belong. And the child-rearing thing comes as naturally as breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Raise perfect children. Never be ruffled. Always know innately what the best thing is to do.

I realise these are all my own fears and uncertainties and that they probably affect the way I relate to these people, which in turn affects the way they see me. I get that. But I can't shake the feeling, and I can't, no matter what I do, make Freya enjoy herself when she is there. Today she hid her face almost the entire time, wouldn't sing or play or even walk. And I was in tears before the morning tea was even served. We went home. And at home the sun was shining so we had a picnic and Freya played on the swings and the trampoline and - god forbid - watched telly. I went from feeling hopeless to feeling okay. And I'm so tired of all this playgroup drama I can't tell you. Except I just did. So thanks for listening.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

i have a dream

Saw Mamma Mia today. The film, not the musical. Laughed, cried, ate too much popcorn, marvelled at how incredibly beautiful Meryl Streep still is, decided that some day I really must visit the Greek Islands - no, wait, did I say visit? I meant live on for the rest of my days. Because I'm fairly sure I can unequivocally state that people who have an all-year-round natural tan are INTENSELY HAPPY. ALL THE TIME.

I also remembered (and loved) every single Abba song and vowed to retrieve my Abba Gold CD from the back of the cupboard forthwith. Who knew Benny and Bjorn could write such beautiful songs, while still looking sexy-as in white satin tunics and flares. Thankyou for the music, gentlemen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

bloom and grow

The camellia trees in my garden are older than me. They have solid, no-nonsense trunks that were nurtured in their early, twig-like days by a solid, no-nonsense woman named Josephine who owned this house long before I was born, and whom I never met but whose blood circulates in three of the people I love most in this world.
When I was pregnant with Elsa, I watched the camellia buds appear and grow larger as I did, and when I brought our tiny baby girl home their beautiful pink blooms covered the branches and the lawn beneath them. It was like nature saying "It's a girl!''.
Now that tiny baby has turned six, and if you were to ask her I'm sure she'd tell you there is no greater age to be. The camellias are blooming and falling, as they do, and although it is winter there is still tremendous warmth to be had if you know where to look for it. And on the branches of our peach tree, hope of an abundant spring.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

who is this harriet?

Excellent question. I like to think of Harriet as someone who watches over me, an employee of the universe if you will. I credit her for leading me into the arms of the man I love, for taking us both into a rundown old house in the early months of 1997 and showing us (okay, maybe just me) the love and life that dwelt in its tobacco-stained walls and could resurface with a bit of hard work and several thousands of dollars. I thank her every day for bringing me home.
Sometimes it seems Harriet has deserted me in my hour of need. When I'm beating myself up and shutting out everyone around me, it feels like Harriet has run for the hills, and I am in no place to blame her. But then, without fail, she comes back to me and it is clear she was just checking in with the boss, getting new instructions from Universe Pty Ltd on how to deal with her charge.
Today I read dooce and thought for the hundred-and-ninety-ninth time how much I'd like to be Heather B. Armstrong's best friend, then thought how unlikely that is because 1. She lives in Utah. 2. She is the world's most popular blogger. and 3. She recently had more than 40,000 comments posted for one entry. I almost wet myself when I get just one. But still I am bordering on obsessive about Heather, and I recently sent her an email because I was sure we could have a meaningful connection beyond me slavishly reading her blog and idolising her. Today her blog entry mentions in passing that she often listened to Pearl Jam's Alive at high volume during her college days for hours on end. And today, somewhat later, I was driving to work and trying to find a decent song on the radio when I heard John Butler Trio and instantly stopped searching. I was now listening to a radio station I literally NEVER listen to, and then the 18-year-old announcer came on and said something hip and rad and groovy, as they do, and I was just about to change the channel again when he said ''Pearl Jam'' and then ''Alive" and then Eddie Vedder starting growling to me and I swear, Heather B. Armstrong might as well have called me directly on my mobile phone and asked me to fly straight to Utah so she could adopt me as her new best friend and constant companion. Harriet and I drove the rest of the way in stunned silence. Eddie growling. Me purring.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

blow wind blow

Windy. Man, is it windy. Enough to blow a brown dog off its chain, in fact. The kind of wind you might call 'lazy', since it opts to blow right through you rather than go the long way around. That wind you can pretty much feel in your bones after you've been in it for a while. My grandma used to hate this kind of wind. I figure that's because she worked a dairy farm and had to spend hours out in it, roaming around a windswept cow paddock chasing 'the girls' in for milking when she probably would have much rather been sitting down to a slice of fresh butter with some bread on it and several cups of tea. These kind of days remind me of her, and the farm, and the cold that you just couldn't shake (although the Lan-Choo did a pretty good job of it). I hope that wherever she is, Grandma has a bottomless cup of tea, an endless supply of butter and a nice spot to sit, out of the wind.